Start with the sunset of Iowa’s in-person registration requirement, mix in some new online sportsbooks’ promotions and heat with the biggest sporting event of the year. That’s the recipe for massive handle in Iowa.
During an interview with PlayIA on Tuesday, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko confirmed the totals collected by the Iowa Gaming Association. He said:
“It’s a voluntary report. It’s unaudited, but we have no reason to believe they’re not accurate — so that is what we try to tell people: $16.3 million, unofficially, for the Super Bowl.”
Why Super Bowl betting totals are unofficial
Expect February’s revenue totals in early March from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission; however, individual events, such as the Super Bowl or March Madness, aren’t itemized. Ohorilko said:
“We’ll know what was wagered for the month, but we won’t know for each event. That’s not something the books are required to report in Iowa.”
No known app outages during Super Bowl
PlayIA‘s sister site, PlayIllinois reported outages associated with Kambi, a backend provider to DraftKings and BetRivers in the Land of Lincoln. Some Iowa sportsbooks also use Kambi as a service provider, but Ohorilko’s office isn’t aware of any issues in Iowa.
This year was the first that Illinois bettors could legally wager on the Super Bowl. Iowa had a previous Super Bowl and lighter volume to get past any challenges.
Sportsbooks stampede into Iowa
The Iowa market has evolved considerably since the state authorized sportsbook betting in August 2019. Ohorilko’s commission saw an influx of sportsbooks, including William Hill and Elite, open in time for the 2019 football season:
“We had a handful of online sports companies go live. A majority of casinos — actually all but one — put in a sportsbook inside their facilities. We saw steady growth numbers — anywhere from a $40, $50 or $60 million handle — through that fall of 2019. We kind of leveled off a bit in January and February. People were expecting a big month in March prior to the pandemic.”
COVID-19 halted the 2020 college basketball conference tournaments and forced the cancellation of March Madness.
“The industry really went stagnant for the spring and summer until a number of the leagues started participating again … College football and NFL football is very popular in this market. Then we saw significant gains. We were seeing numbers every month exceed the previous month. That occurred in September, October, November and December.”
Iowa sunsets in-person registration rule
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission saw another wave of sportsbooks enter Iowa’s market as online registration became possible. Ohorilko said:
“The market has almost doubled in terms of the number of operators to where we are at 11 right now — especially in the months of December and January. What we witnessed was marketing really ramping up to levels that we had not seen before in this state. Specifically, the online sports companies are advertising with media outlets all over the state because the remote registration was available Jan. 1. Every corner of the state was in play from a marketing standpoint.”
Sportsbook promotions paved the way
Online sportsbooks offered lucrative sign-up bonuses or promotions to compete against one another as remote registration became an option. January’s sportsbook handle of nearly $145.5 million foretold the Iowa Gaming Association’s big Super Bowl betting total.
About 80% of January’s sportsbook wagers occurred online. Ohorilko said:
“What we’ll continue to see, I believe, is maybe some more moderate growth in the next couple of months. We had the Super Bowl in February, but next month we’ll have March Madness, which will be very popular. Then things will level off and maybe even decline during those summer months when sports wagering isn’t as popular.”